Teens More Likely to Smoke if They Think Their Friends Smoke

Friend self-reported smoking has less impact; smoking significantly linked to popularity

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Peer influence and social context impact adolescent smoking behaviors, with popular teenagers and adolescents who think their friends smoke more likely to become smokers, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Thomas W. Valente, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California in Alhambra, and colleagues analyzed longitudinal data collected in the ninth and tenth grades (October 2006 and 2007) from 1,950 predominantly Hispanic/Latino adolescents in seven Southern California schools.

The researchers found that there was a significant and consistent association between an egocentric measure of perceived friend smoking and individual smoking (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], ~1.80). The sociometric counterpart of friend self-report smoking correlated with smoking only in the ninth-grade cross-sectional models (aOR, 1.56), and the association was rarely seen in longitudinal models. Smoking and becoming a smoker were significantly associated with popularity, measured by the proportion of nominations received by class size (aOR, 1.67), whereas in longitudinal models, perceived norms were not associated. Becoming a smoker was also associated with friend selection (aOR, 1.32; P = 0.05).

"This study illustrates the utility of egocentric data for understanding peer influence and underscores the importance of perceptions and popularity as mechanisms that influence adolescent smoking," Valente and colleagues conclude.

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